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Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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the retreat from Bunker s hill, he had
posted his Connecticut men on Prospect
hill, and at once began throwing up for
tifications. Such was the untiring ener-



H-AKT n.

June 19.

gy of this aged veteran, that here he was
found, as described by his son, two days
after the battle, hard at work
with his own hands, without hav
ing " put off his clothes or washed him
self" since. At Roxbury, Winter hill was
newly fortified, and Cambridge strength
ened by additional works.

Little was done, by either the Ameri
cans or British, for a fortnight, in the way
of hostility. There was an occasional
skirmish. At one time, a couple of In
dians, belonging to a Massachusetts tribe
which had joined the Americans, had sur
prised, in ambush, an outpost of British
soldiers, and shot down with their arrows
four of them. This brought in revenge
a cannonade from Boston. Bombs were
frequently thrown by the enemy, which,
however, beyond setting a house or a
barn on fire, did little damage. The pa
triot army was now awaiting the arrival
of their new general, GEORGE WASHINGTON,
whose reputation, as a gallant officer in
the colonial battles, gave great hopes to
every man in the American ranks.

Most biographers have fondly traced
back the origin of Washington to a Wil
liam de Hertburn, who lived in the mid
dle of the thirteenth century. This gen
tleman came into the possession of a man
orial estate, in the county of Durham, in
England, called Washington, which name
he thence assumed, and his descendants
after him. A long line of reputable doc
tors, divines, lawyers, and squires, fol
lowed. Among them there was even a
knight, a gallant Sir Henry Washington,
who fought loyally for King Charles I.,
bravely sustained the siege of Worcester

against the parliamentary forces, and dis
tinguished himself at the taking of Bris
tol. Diligent investigators have discov
ered that, in 1538, there was a Lawrence
Washington, w T ho had been a lawyer of
Gray s Inn, and mayor of Northampton,
to whom the manor of Sulgrave,in North
amptonshire, was granted. Two great
grandchildren of this gentleman went as
settlers to the colony of Virginia, about
the year 1657. Their eldest brother re
mained at home ; and proof is given of
his importance, by the statement of the
fact that he married a half-sister of the
duke of Buckingham. John and Law
rence were the names of the two emi
grants to Virginia, who, being younger
brothers, were forced to shift for them

The American hero was immediately
descended from Augustine Washington,
the second son of Lawrence, the elder of
the first two settlers in the colony. Au
gustine was married twice. By his first
wife, Jane Butler, he had four children :
Butler, who died in infancy; Lawrence;
Augustine ; and Jane, w r ho did not sur
vive her childhood. By his second wife,
Mary Ball, whom he married on the 6th
of March, 1730, he had six children
George, Betty, Samuel, John Augustine,
Charles, and Mildred.

GEORGE WASHINGTON was born on the
22d of February, 1732, on an estate which
his father held and cultivated as a plant
er, on the banks of the Potomac, in Wesi>
moreland county. The father died at the
age of forty-nine, leaving landed property
of sufficient extent to bequeath to each
of his sons a plantation, and to make suit-




cable provision for his widow and daugh
ter. Mrs. Washington, upon whom the
care of five children devolved, the eldest
of whom at the time of the death of her
husband was only eleven years, showed
herself equal to her charge, and was re
warded for her tender and wise manage
ment by a long life, which was graced by
the virtues of all her offspring, and ren
dered triumphant by the glory of her
eldest son.

The young George was sent to one of
the best schools in Virginia, where, how
ever, there was little in those days to be
acquired beyond the elementary reading,
writing, and arithmetic. He was a docile
child, and soon learned all that the hum
ble learning of his teacher could impart.
He was of a kindly, affectionate disposi
tion, and, though somewhat hotrtempered,
was a great favorite with his schoolfel
lows. Strong in constitution, and active
and supple in movement, he took the
lead in the playground, and few could
equal him in wrestling, running, and jump
ing. He is said even in his boyhood to
have shown a martial taste, and to have
frequently got up mimic battles, in which
he always bore a prominent part, as the
leader of one of the fighting-parties.

He was remarkable, at a very early
age, for his love of system and order.
His copy-books were always written and
kept with great neatness ; and he seems
to have shown, while yet a child, a taste
for business. A manuscript book exists,
written when he was but thirteen years
of age, in which page after page contains
copies of bills of exchange, leases, receipts,
and land-warrants, all penned with the

greatest care, and with hardly a scratch
or a blot. He was no less systematic, it
would appear, in his study of the propri
eties of conduct ; for in the same manu
script book there is a part devoted to
" Rules of Behavior in Company and Con
versation." This consists of written max
ims of manners and morals.

Arithmetic was his favorite study, and
as he advanced in age he pursued dili
gently the elements of the higher math
ematics, and became proficient in geome
try, trigonometry, and surveying. These
latter studies were his chief occupation
during his last two years at school, which
he quitted just before he reached his six
teenth birthday.

His brother Lawrence, who had served
with credit as a British officer in the West
Indies, and had won the respect and friend
ship of General Wentworth and Admiral
Vernon (from whom he called his plan
tation "Mount Vernon"), was enabled,
through the influence of these distin
guished friends, to obtain for George a
midshipman s warrant. The lad was all
eagerness at this prospect of being a
young officer ; but his mother would not
consent, and Washington was reserved
for another and more glorious destiny.

The boy, disappointed of his naval but
tons, went to live with his brother Law
rence at Mount Vernon,, and there passed
the winter in the study of mathematics,
with the purpose of preparing himself
for the profession of a surveyor. Law
rence had married the daughter of Wil
liam Fairfax, of a noble English family,
and high colonial distinction. Fairfax re
sided at Belvoir, near Mount Vernon. and




at this period he had as a guest at his
house no less a personage than Lord
Fairfax. His lordship, an accomplished
Oxford man, and a writer for " The Spec
tator," was fond of study, and, becoming
naturally a recluse in his habits, had late
ly arrived with the intention of living
upon one of his Virginian estates. Law
rence Washington presented his brother
to the Fairfaxes, and an intimacy at once
ensued, which in the course of a few
months was turned to the profit of the
young surveyor.

Lord Fairfax held a large tract of ter
ritory lying among the valleys of the Al-
leghany mountains. As the land was
wild and not surveyed, settlers were con
stantly encroaching upon it. His lord
ship was therefore desirous of having his
property accurately measured and bound
ed. He accordingly chose Washington
for the purpose, who readily undertook
the enterprise, as it suited both his busi
ness and his tastes. The journey through
the wilderness was rough and dangerous,
but was accomplished spiritedly, and its
object satisfactorily gained. Other en
gagements ensued, and the youthful sur
veyor passed three years busily and prof
itably in his profession.

The threatening troubles with the
French and Indians on the frontiers,
called out the militia of the province ;
and Washington, at the age of nineteen,
received his first military appointment.
He was made adjutant-general, with the
rank of major, and the pay of a hundred
and fifty pounds a year. His duty was
to discipline the militia of one of the dis
tricts into which the province was divided.

This appointment revived his military
tastes, and he devoted himself with great
eagerness to his new pursuit. His broth
er Lawrence s experience was now of
good service, as it enabled him to tutor
the young officer in the military art ; and
he accordingly gave him daily lessons in
the use of the sword, the manual exer
cise, and tactics. George at the same
time read industriously all the books he
could obtain, and mastered pretty thor
oughly the theory of war.

These martial pursuits were now inter
rupted by the illness of Lawrence, who
was in consequence advised to take a
voyage to the West Indies. George ac
companied him, and they sailed for Bar-
badoes in September, 1751. They had
hardly arrived there, when the younger
brother was taken sick with the small
pox; but, although the disease was se
vere, he so soon recovered in that tropi
cal climate, that he was able to be out
again i-n less than three weeks. Law
rence appeared in the meantime so great
ly to have improved, that it was agreed
that George, now entirely well, should
return to Virginia and bring his brother s
wife to Bermuda, where Lawrence pro
posed to proceed. Lawrence, however,
on reaching this island, and finding that
he grew weaker, hastened back to Mount
Vernon, where he died soon after his

Of Washington s subsequent military
campaigns against the Indians and the
French we have already given a record,
and the rest of his military history will
be developed in the course of this nar




Mount Vernon fell to the possession of
Washington, by the death of his brother s
daughter ; and there, in the intervals of
his military career, he lived the life of a
southern planter. On the 6th of Janua
ry, 1759, he married Mrs. Martha Custis,
a widow three months younger than him
self, and the mother of a son and daugh
ter by her former husband, John Parke
Custis. She received one third of this
gentleman s property, which consisted of
several large estates and forty-five thou
sand pounds sterling in money. Wash
ington thus became greatly enriched, for
those early times, by his marriage. Al
though he had won fame in the wars of
the province, and still continued, as a
member of the house of burgesses in Vir
ginia, to bear somewhat the character of
a public man, Washington retired, soon
after his marriage., to his estate on the
banks of the Potomac, with the view of
passing the remainder of his days in the
privacy and simplicity of a country gen

His country now had called him ; and
he did not hesitate to give up the ease
and happiness of his home for the lead
ership of a cause whose trials and dangers
were immediate, while its triumphs, how
ever certain in the future, were yet too
indefinite greatly to tempt the desires of
the most ambitious.

Washington set out from Phila
delphia, on the 21st of June, to
take command of the troops at Cam
bridge, now adopted as the army of the
twelve confederated colonies. He was
accompanied by Generals Lee and Schuy-
ler, and all three started on horseback,


escorted by a troop of gentlemen of Phil
adelphia. The newly-appointed general
was received everywhere on the journey
with great distinction. Each town an
village was on the alert, and welcomed
Washington and his cavalcade with ev
ery possible exhibition of respect. Dep
utations of the principal gentlemen rode
out to meet him, and, escorting him to
the places whence they came, addressed
him in highly-eulogistic terms, expressive
of their joy at his appointment.

Washington, even at this late moment,
still hopeful of a reconciliation with the
mother-country which he so warmly loved,
declared to the committee of the provin
cial Congress of New York, who had ad
dressed him, that " every exertion of my
worthy colleagues and myself will be ex
tended to the re-establishment of peace
and harmony between the mother-coun
try and these colonies."

It was at New York that the news of
the battle of Bunker s hill was first an
nounced to Washington, when he anx
iously inquired whether the militia had
stood their ground against the British
regulars. Upon being* told that they had,
he answered in these memorable words :
" The liberties of the country are safe."
He was now more anxious than ever to
reach the camp at Cambridge, and sped
on with unusual haste. As he entered
Massachusetts, he was met by a cavalcade
of New-England gentlemen and a com
mittee of the provincial Congress, who
addressed him in the usual congratulato
ry terms, to which the general suitably

Washington s personal appearance pro-



[PART 11

ducecl an impression,, upon all who now
beheld him for the first time, in every
respect corresponding to the reputation
which preceded him. His figure was tall
and commanding, and the sedate dignity
of his demeanor secured respect, while
his refined courtesy of manners invited
approach. His excellent horsemanship,
perfected in the chase, of which he was
so fond, added much to the popular effect
of his manly appearance. He had, more
over, the true martial bearing : his ser
vice in the provincial campaigns, and as
an aid-de-camp under that military mar
tinet Braddock, had given him the air of
a veteran ; for, young as he was, being
little over forty, he always appeared old
er than his years. The nice fastidious
ness he exhibited in his dress, which was
in character with the systematic regulari
ty of all his personal habits, served still
more to distinguish him in the public
eye. All the particularities of military
costume were seen to be rigidly observed
in his personal adornment, and thus a con
temporary describes " his blue coat with
buff-colored facings, a rich epaulette on
each shoulder, a buff under-dress, an ele
gant small-sword, and a black cockade in
his hat," The chastened severity of his
countenance, and his formal and some
what paternal manners, did not even pre
vent the softer sex from warming in ad
miration of the new general. " I was
struck," writes Mrs. Adams to her hus
band, " with General Washington. You
had prepared me to entertain a favorable
opinion of him, but I thought the half
was not told me. Dignity, with ease and
complacency, the gentleman and soldier,

look agreeably blended in him. Modes
ty marks every line and feature of his
face. ..."

Though "much too old a young man 1
to please the Mrs. Mountains of the cav
alier times of Virginia, this sedateness of
anticipated age was but an additional
claim to the admiration of the prim and
pious New-England ladies, who, in the
calm sobriety of Washington s manners,
saw with no disappointment the absence
of any proof of "early wild oats," but
looked with satisfaction upon the signs
of a well-ordered youth, and anticipated
with confidence the hopes they gave of
a manhood endowed with a strength of
virtue equal to its highest and gravest
duties. The young southern aids-de-camp
the Mifflins and Randolphs doubtless
found more favor in the eyes of the Mrs.
Mountains of those days, than the rigidly-
virtuous Washington.

On reaching Cambridge, Washington
was received by the whole army,
drawn up to do honor to the oc
casion. The firing of the artillery, and
the loud shouts of the patriots, echoed
the welcome with which his presence was
hailed. Washington was now escorted
to the handsome quarters provided for
him, where he and his suite, having alight
ed and tarried awhile, they returned on
foot to the Cambridge common. The
general, having stepped forward out of
the group of the chief officers who sur
rounded him, spoke a few words to the
assembled troops, and with drawn sword
formally assumed command of the conti
nental army. General Greene, of Rhode
Island, testified for himself and his officers

July 3,




in a few well-spoken and dignified words,
the satisfaction they should feel in serv
ing under Washington as their command
er, and that commander had never a more
faithful subordinate.

Washington, with his quick sense of
duty, lost no time, but at once set about
learning what he had to do and how it
was to be done, and doing it. His pres
ence was immediately felt everywhere in
the camp by the change effected by his
orders. " There is a great overturning
in the camp as to order and regularity,"
writes a contemporary. " New lords, new
laws. The generals Washington and Lee
are upon the lines every day. New or
ders from his excellency are read to the
respective regiments every morning after
prayers. The strictest government is ta
king place, and great distinction is made
between officers and soldiers. Every one
is made to know his place, and keep in
it, or be tied up and receive thirty or for
ty lashes, according to his crime. Thou
sands are at work every day from four
till eleven o clock in the morning. It is
surprising how much work has been done.
The lines are extended almost from Cam
bridge to Mystic river, so that very soon
it will be morally impossible for the ene
my to get between the works, except in
one place, which is supposed to be left
purposely unfortified, to entice the ene
my out of their fortresses. Who would
have thought, twelve months past, that
all Cambridge and Chaiiestown would be
covered over with American camps, and
cut up into forts and intrenchments, and
all the lands, fields, orchards, laid com
mon horses and cattle feed ins: in the

choicest mowing-land, whole fields of corn
eaten down to the ground, and large parks
of well-regulated locusts cut down for fire
wood and other public uses ? This, I must
say, looks a little melancholy. My quar
ters are at the foot of the famous Pros
pect hill, where such great preparations
are made for the reception of the ene
my. . . .

"It is very diverting to walk among
the camps. They are as different in form
as the owners are in their dress ; and ev
ery tent is a portraiture of the temper
and taste of the persons who encamp in
it. Some are made of boards, and some
of sail-cloth ; some partly of one and part
ly of the other. Again, others are made
of stone and turf, brick or bush. Some
are thrown up in a hurry; others curi
ously wrought with doors and windows,
done with wreaths and withes, in the
manner of a basket. Some are your
proper tents and marquees, looking like
the regular camp of the enemy. In these
are the Rhode-Islanders, who are fur
nished with teni>equipages, and every
thing in the most exact English style.
However, I think this great variety is
rather a beauty than a blemish in the

Soon after his arrival at Cambridge,
Washington summoned the major and
brigadier generals to a council of war.
The military appointments by the gen
eral Congress, it will be recollected, were,
in addition to Washington as command er-
in-chief, four major-generals, in the rank
and order named, viz. : 1. Artemas Ward.

* Letter of Reverend William Emerson, quoted by Sparks
in his Life of Washington.



[PART n.

2. Charles Lee. 3. Philip Schuyler. 4. Is
rael Putnam; and eight brigadier-gener
als, viz. : 1. Seth Pomeroy. 2. Richard
Montgomery. 3. David Wooster. 4. Wil
liam Heath. 5. Joseph Spencer. 6. John
Thomas. 7. John Sullivan. 8. Nathan
iel Greene. The precedence which this
established was not altogether satisfacto
ry. Spencer grumbled at the advance
ment of General Putnam over his head ;
and Thomas was dissatisfied with the su
perior rank given to Pomeroy. General
Spencer, in fact, took what he considered
his relative degradation in such high dud
geon as to leave the army, without hav
ing paid his respects to Washington ; but
he was induced to return, on being pro
moted to the first rank after Putnam.
Pomeroy s resignation gave Thomas a
chance of advancement, and the urgent
advice of his friends induced him to re
main and take the benefit of it. These
were some of the minor difficulties which
thronged in upon Washington, and em
barrassed his action. He continued, how
ever, in the calm and resolute perform
ance of his duty, and went systematically
about the organization into an army of
the miscellaneous crowd of patriots un
der his command.

At the council of war, an inquiry was
instituted in regard to the numbers and
condition of the two armies. Eleven thou
sand five hundred regulars were given as
the estimate of the British force ; while
the Americans had seventeen thousand
men enrolled,of whom only fourteen thou
sand five hundred were considered capa
ble of duty. The patriotforce was deemed
inadequate, and it was resolved to make

an effort to increase it to twenty-two

The position of the two opposing camps
at this time is best described in a letter
written by Washington himself: "I found
the British," he says, strongly ^

intrenching on Bunker s hill,
about a mile from Charlestown, and ad
vanced about half a mile from the place
of the late action, with their sentries ex
tended about one hundred and fifty yards
on this side of the narrowest part of the
Neck, leading from this place [Cam
bridge] to Charlestown. Three floating
batteries lie in Mystic river, near their
camp, and one twenty-gun ship below the
ferry-place, between Boston and Charles-
town. They have also a battery on Copp s
hill, on the Boston side, which much an
noyed our troops in the late attack. Up
on Roxbury neck they are also deeply
intrenched and strongly fortified. Their
advance-guards, till last Saturday, occu
pied Brown s houses, about a mile from
Roxbury meetinghouse, and twenty rods
from their lines ; but, at that time, a par
ty from General Thomas s camp surprised
the guard, drove them in, and burned the
houses. The bulk of their army, com
manded by General Howe, lies on Bun
ker s hill, and the remainder on Roxbury
neck, except the light-horse, and a few
men in the town of Boston.

" On our side we have thrown up in-
trenchments on Winter and Prospect hills
the enemy s camp in full view, at the
distance of little more than a mile. Such
intermediate points as would admit a
landing, I have, since my arrival, taken
care to strengthen, down to Sewall s farm,




where a strong intrenchment has been
thrown up. At Roxbury, Thomas has
thrown up a strong work on the hill, about
two hundred yards above the meeting
house ; which, with the brokenness of the
ground, and a great number of rocks, has
made that pass very secure. The troops
raised in New Hampshire, with a regiment
from Rhode Island, occupy Winter hill ;
a part of those of Connecticut, under Gen
eral Putnam, are on Prospect hill. The
troops in this town (Cambridge) are en
tirely of the Massachusetts ; the remain
der of the Rhode-Island men are at Sew-
all s farm. Two regiments of Connecti
cut, and nine of the Massachusetts, are
at Roxbury. The residue of the army,
to the number of about seven hundred,
are posted in several small towns along
the coast, to prevent the depredations of
the enemy."

Washington arranged the army in
three great divisions. The centre, at
Cambridge, was under the command of
Major-General Putnam; the right, at Rox
bury, under Major-General Ward ; and
the left under Major-General Lee, part
of which was at Prospect hill, and the
rest at Winter hill. The country, once
so beautiful at this season (July), was now
sadly changed. The landscape described
as so charming with its hills and valleys,
rocks and woods, interspersed with strag
gling villages, with here and there a spire
peeping over the trees, and with every
where fields of the most charming green
that delighted eyes ever gazed on, pre
sented now a universal scene of prepara
tion for war. The wide-spread camp cov
ered a surface of several miles in extent ;

farmhouses were turned into barracks,
and pastures into parade-grounds ; and
the quiet of the country was disturbed
by the daily beatings to arms of the as
sembled troops.

Washington found a disorderly crowd
of followers, whom it required all his gen
eralship to drill into the shape of soldiers ;
" a mixed multitude of people," he said,
" who are under very little discipline, or
der, or government." Disrespect to offi
cers and unsoldierlike conduct were the
chief vices of his irregular forces ; and
Washington did his best, by means of

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 24 of 126)